Posted by Big Gav
While I've spent a lot of time mocking various fear campaigns over the years, its not often that I've thought the mainstream media has overdone an environmental issue - however I was getting an uneasy feeling today looking at all the papers - everything from the "Australian Financial Review" down to the "Daily Terror" had front cover articles suggesting Australia was about to turn into a barren, lifeless dust bowl within the next couple of weeks.
When I wandered into the corner shop tonight to pick up some milk the guy behind the counter started ranting about the price of fruit and vegetables rising by 500% over the next year and how he was going to be driven out of business - obviously he'd been looking at his pile of copies of The Terror - with a full cover picture of some dried out mud and the headline "The Dead Heart" - all day and the fear had gotten to him.
I guess the benefit of making fun of "Power of Nightmares" addicted politicians and having read vast quantities of peak oil (and to a lesser extent) global warming apocaphilia over a period of time is that I don't take this sort of thing all that seriously - especially when all the hysteria seemed to be driven by a speech from the Rodent seeking to gain control over national water supply regulation from the states.
Of course, even if the media blitz today was overdone, we are going to suffer from global warming and the result of our farming practices - these problems should have received a higher priority years ago and Howard should have taken a lot more stick for his "do nothing" approach to global warming over that period. He still won't accept that the drought and global warming are linked it seems.
From The Terror's lead article "Big dry to hit consumer pockets 'immediately'"" today :
* Fruit, veges, nut, milk price rise 'almost immediately'
* Price rises comparable to banana crisis
* Cleanskin and bargain wines 'unavailable'
After drought-weary farmers in the Murray-Darlin Basin were yesterday told to prepare to turn off their taps, it's not only those on the land who should be praying for rain Australia's water crisis will hit consumers hard, with experts predicting the price of fruit and vegetables, nuts, milk and wine will soar. While farmers would not speculate how far prices would rise, they agreed price rises would be linked to the length of time it took to rain. Prices are expected to begin rising within weeks.
And "Water shortage signs 'known for decades'" :
WARNING signs for the severe water shortages now facing Murray-Darling Basin irrigators have been known for decades, a South Australian water expert said today.
Former chief water scientist with SA Water, Professor Don Bursill, said today the river system had been exploited since the 1970s and measures to counter the stress on it could have been taken years ago. “The Murray-Darling Basin has been under stress for 20 or 30 years and in that time, unfortunately, we have increased our extraction, particular in the irrigation area,” Prof Bursill said in Adelaide today. “I would have thought that we could have taken steps a long time ago to return the system to sustainability without having to wait until such a severe drought.”
Prime Minister John Howard yesterday warned irrigators water would not be allocated from July unless substantial rain fell in the basin soon.
The SYdney Morning Herald's lead article was "For millions the water will stop midyear", with the closing paragraphs hinting at the real reason for the sudden surge of interest in the topic. Also see "Turnbull's embarrassing u-turn" and "Drought may force food imports: PM" - while The Australian has "Food prices 'will soar' if irrigation switched off", "Murray-Darling plan 'will work without Victoria'", "Turnbull backs down on Victoria water threat", "Murray running on empty" and "Editorial: No rain means big pain for everyone".
JOHN HOWARD has urged everyone to pray for rain after warning that the millions of people along the Murray-Darling Basin will have only enough water for basic domestic use from the middle of the year. The Murray-Darling Basin is the country's food bowl, and irrigators and winemakers warn that food and wine prices will soar, while economists fear heavy local job losses.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that unless there is substantial rain within a month, there would be no water allocations for irrigation or environmental flows from July 1. "We should all pray for rain," he said. The looming catastrophe will directly affect the 50,000 farmers who depend on the river system for their livelihoods as well as the millions in Adelaide and the numerous towns along the basin, which stretches from southern Queensland to South Australia.
Mr Howard said it was hard to estimate the exact overall economic impact of the crisis. "We know already that the drought has taken up to three-quarters to 1 per cent off our [economic] growth. The longer it goes on, the harder the impact," he said. The Government would increase drought assistance already available to farmers, putting further pressure on the budget.
Mr Howard said a report commissioned last November to audit the effects of the drought along the basin showed the situation to be "unprecedentedly dangerous". "Unless there are very substantial inflows - and for that, read heavy rain leading to run-off in the catchment areas - prior to mid-May 2007, there will be insufficient water available (from July 1) for irrigation, the environment or for any other purposes other than critical urban supplies," he said.
Farmers living along the river would be allowed to draw only water for personal needs. There was a "potentially devastating impact" on horticulture, including grapes, citrus, stone fruit and apples, as well as the dairy industry and vegetable growers. Winemakers say next year's vintage could be crippled, and the Irrigation Association of Australia said food prices would soar. ...
Mr Howard continued to dispute whether the drought was linked to climate change, but said the crisis underscored the need for Victoria to ratify his $10 billion Commonwealth takeover of the Murray-Darling Basin, which aims to make water use along the basin sustainable.
But the Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, refused to budge. He said Victorian irrigators were already aware that they faced having no water allocations next financial year.
One last quote from The Herald - "The end to land of milk and money".
NESTLED between forests of red gum and Australia's mightiest inland river, Phil O'Neill's dairy farm is called Murray Eden. Its grasses are usually outrageously lush, the cows sleek with groaning udders. "I don't like to blow my own trumpet, but it's pretty well known through the Barham district as one of the prettiest farms when things are right," Mr O'Neill said.
But things are not right. The Eden comes courtesy of irrigation water from the Murray River. Catchment inflows are the lowest on record and the dairy industry takes almost 40 per cent of the water used in food production in Australia. "Without water, we are basically living in a desert here," Mr O'Neill said of his farm on the NSW side of the river, about 65 kilometres downstream of Moama. "We get less than 13 inches [330 millimetres of rainfall per year on average]. It's dusty and you can see where the hay trails are [for feeding the cows] and basically bloody dirt."
If there is no irrigation water available over the next year, dairies such as Mr O'Neill's and vast permanent plantings of grapes and citrus along the Murray could disappear, shattering rural towns that rely on them. For Mr O'Neill, the Prime Minister's words of doom and gloom about the Murray-Darling yesterday came as no surprise. ...
Meanwhile The Rodent is still trying to push the "clean green nuclear power" myth while ignoring better policies like investing in smart grids, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Nuclear energy is "a source of hope" and "part of the future for all mankind", according to Prime Minister John Howard.
Opening the new $400 million nuclear science research reactor at Lucas Heights, Mr Howard gave a powerful endorsement for atomic power. "Nuclear energy, nuclear science, nuclear power is part of Australia's future," he said. "Those who seek to shut the nuclear option out of anything in relation to power generation or science or medicine in the future are really looking backwards rather than forwards. "Nuclear power is cleaner than power from coal or from gas, and as coal gets dearer as we apply technologies which produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, then inevitably it will become more economic to use nuclear power."
Mr Howard backed claims by Dr Ziggy Switkowski, chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Research Organisation (ANSTO), that the reactor, dubbed OPAL, was "Sydney's third icon," after the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
Only a handful of demonstrators protested against the opening, parking a tanker, dressed up as a nuclear waste truck, outside.
"After 50 years of reactor operations at Lucas Heights," said Holly Creenaune, the nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth, "there is still no safe way to store nuclear waste. "The Federal Government proposal to impose a nuclear waste dump on communities in the Northern Territory could see radioactive waste transported from Lucas Heights through NSW for the next 40 years, exposing communities along the transport route to risk of spill and contamination."
The convenor of People against a Nuclear Reactor, Genevieve Kelly, asked if the reactor was safe, "why has the Howard government refused to provide unconditional liability in the event of an accident affecting residents or they property?